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Biden-Xi meeting, China-Philippines, and EU-China summit
+ IMF raises China growth outlook and The China Project shuts
Welcome to another edition of What’s Happening in China, a weekly newsletter that curates the latest and most important news and developments from the country.
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PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Canada's corporate ethics czar says it has launched a fact-finding investigation into allegations that Zara Canada Inc. is working with companies that use forced labour in China.
The Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise says its investigation into the apparel company stems from allegations made by 28 civil society organizations.
The organizations alleged in June that Zara Canada has supply relationships with three Chinese companies identified as using or benefitting from the use of Uyghur forced labour.
China began the labour transfers in the early 2000s as part of a broad system of persecution that has also included mass arrests and the use of “re-education” camps, where torture, beatings and forced sterilization have been documented. In Canada, the House of Commons passed a resolution in 2021 describing China’s actions against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims as a form of genocide.
Many countries, including Canada, have introduced legislation designed to curb imports of goods produced with forced labour in Xinjiang and other locations. But one sector using transferred workers from Xinjiang has largely escaped notice: the seafood industry.
“I was held in a dark room for 20 days and physically tortured,” Nurmehmet reportedly said during the trial, adding that he had been made to give false confessions under duress while in detention. “I never joined any terrorist group or any political activities while I was in Turkey,” he said.
The trial was attended by Nurmehmet’s wife, mother and father, who have not been able to meet him since he was arrested at his home in Beijing and flown to Xinjiang in May.
Nurmehmet has been denied his choice of legal counsel and is being represented by a state-appointed lawyer, according to sources close to him. The lawyer told family members to expect a sentence of more than eight years in prison, and that the verdict may be announced any time from “a week or years” later.
POLITICS & SOCIETY
Chinese people have expressed alarm online after a second gymnasium collapsed in Heilongjiang province in months, killing three people.
The three victims are middle school students, state news agency Xinhua reports.
The cave-in on Monday night came after days of unseasonably cold weather and snowfall.
The director of a hospital in China's central Hubei province is under investigation for selling birth certificates, with the hospital's obstetrics and gynaecology department forced to suspend operations, state media reported on Tuesday.
The case fuelled a flurry of online comments by Chinese netizens who said these birth certificates were likely to be used to register abducted children and prevent them from being found, the Global Times reported.
Other netizens said it may provide an option for registering surrogate children as surrogacy is illegal in China.
The director earned more than 60,000 yuan ($8,200) for each certificate, the Global Times said.
Two prominent businessmen in China - a tech founder and an investment guru - have been detained by authorities, according to reports.
The boss of Chinese live-streaming site DouYu has been missing for weeks, with his firm saying he cannot be contacted.
Meanwhile, another executive - who has been referred to as China's Warren Buffet - was on Monday confirmed by his firm to have been detained.
The pink tax is about more than just color. It can be used to describe a broad range of discrimination against female consumers.
A particular focus of women’s ire in China and elsewhere is the cost of menstruation. An online campaign this fall encouraged the Chinese government to drop a 13% tax on menstrual products as it considers a new law on value-added taxes, arguing they should be considered basic necessities.
The 13% rate is the same as for tobacco, and it’s several percentage points higher than items deemed essential such as grain and water.
For women on tight budgets, the added cost can mean going without menstrual products at all, said Nancy Qian, an economics professor at the Kellogg School of Managerial Economics and Decision Sciences at Northwestern University.
China is looking to amend its state secrets law for a second time in 13 years, to strengthen the Communist Party’s control over the country’s work involving state secrets amid an increase in espionage activity.
A draft revision released by the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s top legislative body, in late October shows potential changes to around two thirds of the current Law on Guarding State Secrets, with 10 new articles added.
Picking Quarrels: The One Essential Charge in China – U.S.-Asia Law Institute
After reviewing hundreds of verdicts from Chinese courts convicting both ordinary citizens and public figures of the crime of picking quarrels, it is not an exaggeration to say that this charge could be brought against almost anyone living in China today.
There have been strong voices from Chinese civil society calling for substantially reforming or abolishing the catch-all crime. For instance, in May 2023, Zhu Zhengfu, a lawyer and delegate to the National People’s Congress from Guangdong, proposed abolishing picking quarrels due to its widespread abuse. However, such voices have so far been ignored by authorities, with no resulting reform despite extensive media coverage.
Plateau China: Reform in the ten years after the Third Plenum of 2013 analyses what to expect at the Third Plenum of the 20th Party Congress, and where the People’s Republic of China (PRC) stands ten years after the Third Plenum of 2013.
HONG KONG & MACAO
Introducing more generous cash incentives to encourage couples to have children and counter Hong Kong’s flagging birth rate will strain public coffers, a senior official has said after rejecting calls to give some families with newborns a HK$40,000 (US$5,100) annual handout for the first five years of the child’s life.
The number of births dropped from 52,900 in 2019 to 43,000 in 2020, and then from 37,000 in 2021 to 32,500 in 2022, an almost 40 per cent decline over the entire time period.
Legislator Peter Shiu Ka-fai on Wednesday was among those calling for more substantial cash bonuses and suggested giving low-income families HK$40,000 per year for each newborn until the child turned five.
A 60-year-old public housing estate in Hong Kong – known for its rainbow-coloured façade and home to over 17,000 residents – is set to be redeveloped, local media reported on Monday.
The Instagram hotspot, sitting beneath the iconic Lion Rock, is one of the largest public housing estates in the city. Its redevelopment would add to the ten such projects currently underway, Ming Pao reported on Monday citing sources.
Facing a saturated market and a gloomy economic outlook in mainland China, restaurateurs are setting their sights further afield, with many making Hong Kong – with its more international finance system and clientele – their first stop.
Trump administration officials rejected a request for political asylum from jailed pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong just before Beijing imposed a draconian security law on the city, according to a new book about democracy movements in Hong Kong and China.
“Among the Braves” by former Washington Post Hong Kong correspondent Shibani Mahtani and The Atlantic’s Timothy McLaughlin gives an account of Wong’s asylum bid, quoting U.S. officials as saying it was rejected due to the “national interest,” despite it being clear that Wong would be arrested and jailed if they did nothing.
The report, titled Sell Out My Soul: The Impending Threats to Freedom of Religion or Belief in Hong Kong, provides an in-depth analysis of the growing challenges to freedom of religion or belief, as defined by Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in Hong Kong. This includes the impact of the draconian National Security Law on religious believers, self-censorship in sermons and other religious activities, threats to faith-based schools in the education sector, and Beijing’s campaign of ‘Sinicization’ of religion. The report serves as an early warning signal and calls on the international community to closely monitor developments in regard to freedom of religion or belief in Hong Kong.
Activists have secured a string of legal victories in Hong Kong but it is a very different story on the mainland
The company behind the Bored Ape crypto art craze is looking into reports that people have been suffering from eye burn, extreme pain and impaired vision after attending one of its events, which was lit by UV lights.
The ApeFest festival is held every year for members of the Bored Ape Yacht Club, AKA Bored Apes, who have invested in a collection of 10,000 non-fungible tokens (NFTs) featuring computer-generated profile pictures of cartoon apes.
Taiwan saw an average of 1,509 cyberattacks per week during the first three quarters of 2023, according to a report released by Check Point, an international cybersecurity company.
This figure makes Taiwan the region with the highest number of cyberattacks in the world, the report said. The nation saw a 2% increase compared to the previous year.
The majority of these attacks come from China, including both large and small-scale attempts to deny access to or sabotage government websites. Taiwanese Legislator Wang Ting-Yu (王定宇) said that while Taiwan does not engage in counter-assaults, it does defend itself, per 60 Minutes.
Taiwan’s Most Pressing Challenge Is Strangulation, Not Invasion – War on the Rocks
The unwillingness of the United States and Taiwan to aggressively confront coercion at the lower end of the spectrum will only embolden the Chinese Communist Party to feel comfortable taking even more aggressive steps. Thus, deterring gray-zone actions is not a separate enterprise from deterring a blockade or invasion, but rather a critical early step in doing so.
While the United States and Taiwan should continue to focus on foundational military capabilities, they should also develop an aggressive campaign to counter Chinese gray-zone actions. Such an effort would include a higher tolerance for pushback against Chinese aggression, greater efforts to increase the transparency around Chinese actions, which have largely remained in the shadows, and stepped-up efforts to combat China’s information warfare.
China tells UK to stop using trade to improve Taiwan ties – The Guardian
China’s government has accused the UK of using trade cooperation “as an excuse” to enhance its ties with Taiwan, after the announcement of a bilateral trade talks agreement.
On Wednesday Taiwan’s representative to the UK, Kelly Hsieh, and his British counterpart based in Taipei, John Dennis, signed an enhanced trade partnership (ETP). The agreement paves the way for future talks on green energy, digital trade and investment, among other trade-based issues. The UK is Taiwan’s third-biggest trading partner in Europe and 21st largest overall.
“The arrangement will take our trade relations to new heights and represents the culmination of our longstanding work to develop new forms of engagement,” said Dennis, the UK’s de facto ambassador.
In a statement, the two parties said the agreement was the first time a framework had been established to foster bilateral trade between Taiwan and Europe, and it hoped it would serve as a model for other countries.
Estonia has doubled down on letting the Taiwan government open a representative office in the capital Tallinn, despite warnings from China to scrap the plan.
"As many other European Union countries, Estonia is ready to accept the creation of Taipei’s non-diplomatic economic or cultural representations" in Tallinn, Estonian Foreign Minister Margus Tsahkna said in a statement sent to Euronews.
Earlier this week, the Chinese Foreign Ministry increased diplomatic pressure on the Baltic state, with spokesperson Wang Wenbin urging "the Estonian side to abide by its solemn commitment to the one-China principle".
President Joe Biden will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping face-to-face for the first time in a year on Wednesday, the White House said, in high-stakes diplomacy aimed at curbing tensions between the world's two superpowers.
The closely watched interaction, on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in the San Francisco Bay area, could last hours and involve teams of officials from Beijing and Washington.
It is expected to cover global issues from the Israel-Hamas war to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, North Korea's ties with Russia, Taiwan, the Indo-Pacific, human rights, fentanyl, artificial intelligence, as well as "fair" trade and economic relations, senior Biden administration officials said.
"Nothing will be held back; everything is on the table," according to one U.S. official, who declined to be named, in a briefing with reporters.
American business leaders and other executives will each pay $2,000 to attend a dinner reception for Chinese leader Xi Jinping next week, according to reports and an invitation sent out by the organizers.
The National Committee on U.S.-China Relations and the U.S.-China Business Council are jointly hosting the gala in San Francisco on November 15, during which they said a "senior Chinese leader" would "delivery a major speech." Bloomberg on Tuesday named Xi as the guest of honor.
No detail is too small for Chinese advance planners, down to discussions about camera angles and who goes where and when – even as they endeavour to avoid any embarrassing protests or additional export bans.
The deliverables, such as they are, have been rather atypical. Some of the easy and largely symbolic measures were announced before the Chinese even confirmed Xi’s attendance, including nuclear non-proliferation and climate talks and an increased number of commercial flights.
Part of this may reflect a different outlook on the meetings, with China more inclined to announce and hold talks for the optics, with less concern for substance, and the US frustrated at what it sees as decades of Beijing delaying change with meetings and procedure, analysts said.
Can a Summit Ease U.S.-China Tensions? – Council on Foreign Relations
[…] there’s a real possibility that Xi is surrounded by yes-men, who might not want to tell him bad news. In this context, it matters that the president of the United States can talk to him directly to explain why American perceptions of China are so negative and what the direct risks this could bring.
Advocates for human rights in China have appealed to US President Biden ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco, urging him to prioritise concerns about Beijing’s lack of concrete human rights improvements in discussions with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping are preparing to announce the resumption of military-to-military communications between the two countries when they meet on the sidelines of the APEC summit later this month, according to three people familiar with the matter.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is making another attempt to meet with his Chinese counterpart this month as overall relations between the world’s biggest economies improve.
Austin’s office formally requested that a sitdown be arranged at the upcoming Asean Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus in Jakarta, Indonesia, even though the Chinese position is vacant, a senior US defense official told reporters Monday. The previous minister, Li Shangfu, was ousted last month, and Beijing has yet to announce his replacement.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Friday that she agreed with Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng to "intensify communication" on economic issues but warned him to crack down on Chinese companies that give material support to Russia for its war in Ukraine.
The two "had candid, direct, and productive discussions" on issues from U.S export controls to possible areas of cooperation, including climate change and debt relief for low-income countries, Yellen told a press conference after two days of meetings in San Francisco.
The two held talks before the Nov. 15-17 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) gathering of leaders in San Francisco, which will feature a planned meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Yellen said she accepted an invitation from He, referred to by China's state media as the director of a powerful Communist Party economic body, to return to China next year as part of a "regular cadence of contact" between the economic leaders.
The US has reached some agreements with China ahead of the COP28 Summit in Dubai at the end of this month, Washington's climate envoy has said.
"We felt that our days of talks were very successful. We did come up with some agreements", John Kerry told the BBC at a business summit in Singapore.
Details will be shared "at the appropriate moment soon", he said.
The world's two biggest polluters finding common ground is considered a crucial part of any consensus at COP28.
Mr Kerry had met with his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua in California this week for four days. He described the meetings as tough and serious.
The chips include most of Nvidia's newest features for AI work, but have had some of their computing power measures cut back to comply with new U.S. rules, according to the newsletter's analysis of the chip's specifications.
Nvidia declined to comment when asked about the report. The White House and the Commerce Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Last month, the U.S. AI chip giant, whose graphics processing units (GPUs) dominate the market for AI, said new export restrictions announced by Washington would block it from selling two of its modified advanced AI chips - the A800 and H800 - both of which were created for the Chinese market last year to comply with previous export rules.
The new rules put a cap on how much how much computing power a chip can pack into a small size. The rules also include what analysts call a "grey zone" in which the chips might still be allowed to ship to China but will require a license.
All In: US Places a Big Bet with October 17 Controls – Rhodium Group
The Sullivan doctrine is alive and well in the October 17 controls. The new rules emphasize the US National Security Advisor’s “preempt and deter” posture toward protecting a US and partner tech ecosystem and the accepted ambiguity that comes with regulating fast-moving disruptive technologies. This is a paradigm shift that the corporate world is still trying to internalize with each regulatory rollout, whether in export controls, industrial policy guardrails, investment screening, trade defensive measures, or emerging data and AI governance policies.
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan appears to be placing a bet that time and innovation is on the United States’ side while China’s statist approach to managing its economy will result in more fumbles than breakthroughs.
A handful of Canadian, German and Australian critical mineral explorers plan to command premium prices for key metals used in electric vehicles, promising quality and consistency in exchange for shifting reliance away from China, the dominant producer and price-setter.
China controls 95% of the production and supply of rare earth metals, integral to manufacturing magnets for electric vehicles (EVs) and wind farms, and this monopoly has allowed China to dictate prices and stir turmoil among end users through export controls.
Now, mining companies such as TSX-listed Aclara Resources (ARA.TO) and Australia's Ionic Rare Earths (IXR.AX) are discussing plans that may loosen China's grip on the critical minerals market, moving towards market-determined prices, company officials told Reuters.
Canadian miner Neo Performance Materials (NEO.TO) and Germany's Vacuumschmelze are also discussing similar plans, people familiar with the matter said. The two companies did not offer comment when reached by Reuters.
The previously unreported plans come as the miners seek to benefit from the Group of Seven (G7) countries' move to incentivize miners and automakers to produce and procure critical metals domestically or from friendly nations.
In exchange, these miners expect end users to pay a premium.
The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China’s US arm was hit by a ransomware attack that disrupted trades in the US Treasury market on Thursday, the latest in a string of victims ransom-demanding hackers have claimed this year.
ICBC Financial Services, the US unit of China’s largest commercial lender by assets, said it was investigating the attack that disrupted some of its systems, and making progress towards recovering from it.
China’s foreign ministry said on Friday that the lender was striving to minimise risk impact and losses after the attack.
Meta’s recent earnings call showed why it still needs China – Rest of World
None of Meta’s platforms have ever been available behind the Great Firewall — but that doesn’t mean the company isn’t making money in China.
That fact was front and center in Meta’s latest earnings call, which attributed much of the recent growth to Chinese ad sales. You can’t advertise to anyone in China, of course, but there are lots of Chinese businesses trying to sell to foreign customers, whether they’re Shein-adjacent e-commerce sellers or part of China’s surging mobile gaming industry. For both kinds of business, Facebook turns out to be a pretty good way to reach their customers.
The day that panda lovers have been dreading has finally come.
The National Zoo’s three giant pandas, Mei Xiang, Tian Tian and their cub Xiao Qi Ji. on Wednesday began their long trip to China, leaving behind an empty panda exhibit with no certainty that pandas ever would again take up residence there.
“It is a moment with some heartbreak in it,” said National Zoo director Brandie Smith. “But it is also a moment of joy because we are celebrating the success of the world’s longest-running conservation program for a single species.”
As a U.S. Navy surveillance plane flew in circles, keeping a close watch, dozens of Chinese coast guard and accompanying ships chased and encircled Philippine vessels in the latest confrontation in one of the most dangerous flashpoints in the South China Sea.
At the height of Friday’s four-hour faceoff in the high seas, a Chinese coast guard ship blasted a water cannon toward a Philippine motorboat delivering food and other supplies to Filipino forces at a marooned, rusting warship that serves as the country’s fragile territorial outpost at Second Thomas Shoal.
China has steadfastly stood by its claim to virtually the entire strategic waterway, clashing with its smaller neighbors and drawing in the United States, Manila’s treaty ally and China’s main rival in the Asia-Pacific region. Washington and its allies have deployed navy ships and fighter aircraft to promote freedom of navigation and overflight, build up deterrence and reassure allies like the Philippines.
Paparo said the PRC is “pressing unlawful claims, with no basis in international law or custom. And they’re operating under the logic of military power.” The China of President Xi Jinping wants “to create tense, uncomfortable situations in the hope that US and partner forces will vacate the space that every force has a right to be in,” he said.
The EU-China Summit will take place on December 7 and 8 in Beijing, the bloc’s internal market boss Thierry Breton said on Friday.
Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen – the European Council and Commission presidents – will sit down with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang, more than 18 months after the previous summit and following a period of inflamed tensions across a range of issues.
Breton confirmed the dates during a press conference in Beijing, doing so after an “intense” series of meetings there where he voiced a wish to keep engaging China while also lashing out at its persistent use of subsidies.
EU lawmakers have written to Brussels authorities demanding to know how Chinese state-linked companies were given roles advising the bloc’s answer to Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative.
A cross-party group of European Parliament members sent a list of questions to the European Commission on Thursday asking whether the firms will be excluded from the Global Gateway Business Advisory Board “within the context of de-risking from China”, according to correspondence that was shared with the Post.
They asked whether the commission “did not even undertake a basic verification or check of its board members, and how will it mitigate this shortcoming in the future”, and demanded a full list of businesses involved in Global Gateway.
EU probes AliExpress to examine curbs on illegal products – Yahoo Finance
The EU on Monday announced an investigation into Chinese e-commerce giant AliExpress, seeking more details on what measures it is taking to protect consumers online from illegal products, including fake medicines.
The European Commission said it had sent a formal request for information to AliExpress, owned by Alibaba, in what is a first step in a process under a new EU new law, the Digital Services Act (DSA), that aims to counter the spread of illegal goods and content online.
The DSA came into effect in August for 19 "very large" platforms, including AliExpress, Facebook and Instagram, that have more than 45 million monthly European users.
The EU has already started probes into Meta, TikTok and X (formerly Twitter), requesting more details about how they have acted against disinformation.
Finnish police said on Friday an examination of an anchor believed to have damaged a Baltic Sea gas pipeline showed that it likely belonged to a Chinese cargo ship linked to the case.
After a leak led to the shutdown of the pipeline between Finland and Estonia on October 8, Finnish authorities have been investigating the damage they said was caused by “external” activity, raising speculation of potential sabotage.
Authorities had previously said findings pointed to the Hong Kong-flagged NewNew Polar Bear, and in late October said an anchor had been recovered from the seabed.
“At this stage we can state that the anchor lifted from the sea on 24 October 2023, may for some technical details be considered to belong to NewNew Polar Bear,” Detective Superintendent Risto Lohi of the Finnish police said in a statement.
It will take at least five months to repair the gas pipeline, its operator said in October, leaving Finland dependent on liquefied natural gas imports for the winter.
Natural gas accounts for around five per cent of Finland’s energy consumption, being mainly used in industry and combined heat and power production.
"What we have seen is a change in the tone of how the government engages with China. They are very careful not to let any hostility show, at least in public," said Ryan Neelam, director of the public opinion and foreign policy program at the Lowy Institute in Sydney.
"But when you look at the substance of those policies and the actual way that Australia looks towards China, there hasn't been a huge shift," he told DW.
"If you look at Australian policy from the time of the Albanese government's election in 2022, very little has changed in terms of the substance of the issues that China objected to," Neelam added.
On Tuesday, Anthony Albanese made the front page of China’s official English-language state newspaper. So did the Cuban prime minister, Manuel Marrero Cruz, the Serbian prime minister, Ana Brnabic, and the South African deputy president, Paul Mashatile.
It was a sign of the importance of Albanese’s visit, but also a reminder that it’s not of the same significance in Beijing that it is in Canberra. The historic visit by Albanese to China this week was the first by an Australian prime minister in seven years. But analysts say the trip, which included a meeting between Albanese and the president, Xi Jinping, was more about clearing one problem Beijing saw as fixable from an increasingly full plate of dramas.
Anthony Albanese met China’s president, Xi Jinping, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Monday night. Here are five things that came up when the two leaders spoke for the first time on Chinese soil.
Since coming to power in May last year, the Albanese government has made three large concessions to Chinese interests at the expense of our own, and compromised substantially on a fourth.
Each of these compromises has wider effects than just our bilateral relationship. Each shifts the balance of influence and power in the region in Beijing’s favour.
Leaders from Pacific island countries – together with Australia and New Zealand – have just wrapped up their most important annual political talks.
They wrestled with calls to phase out fossil fuels and discussed how to navigate intense rivalry between the US and China, all while trying to keep a lid on simmering internal tensions.
The conflict comes at a time when Beijing is seeking to grow its influence in the Middle East – a region where it has historically not had significant clout – by building on its involvement in brokering a deal earlier this year to normalise relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Alessio Patalano, professor of war and strategy in east Asia at King’s College London, who attended a recent security forum in Beijing, said there were signs Beijing was leaning on Iran to prevent further escalation of the conflict as a step towards ceasefire.
“They’re trying to use their acquired influence in the region to see if they can target a fragile and fast evolving situation in a way that allows them to claim – if a victory comes around – that they were part of the solution not the problem.”
Raymond Kuo, a political scientist at the Rand Corporation, said Beijing still didn’t have strong enough influence in the deeply complex region to effect a real solution.
The tiny Himalayan nation of 700,000, wedged between China and India, is the only country in South Asia where Beijing does not have a presence or formal diplomatic ties.
But that could change with Bhutan said to be close to resolving disputes on its western and northern borders with China, which is also pushing for the establishment of formal diplomatic ties.
China will ensure security and stability at its border with Myanmar, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Friday, while urging all parties in Myanmar to immediately stop fighting.
The president of military-ruled Myanmar has said the country is at risk of breaking apart due to ineffective management of recent violence in its border regions with China.
The Myanmar junta is facing the biggest challenge to its authority since it seized power in a 2021 coup, with a surge in attacks by pro-democracy and ethnic minority insurgents on military bases in the north, northeast, northwest and southeast.
China has repeatedly called for the end of fighting and urged Myanmar to cooperate with China in maintaining stability on their common border, and to prevent further casualties.
There have been several reports of Chinese citizens being killed in clashes, and China has sent advisories to citizens in Myanmar to avoid areas where violence was prevalent.
Following the Myanmar military’s seizure of power in 2021, analysts speculated that Chinese companies would take advantage of the military-appointed State Administration Council (SAC)’s diplomatic and economic isolation to push through infrastructure projects under the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC), a component of the Belt and Road Initiative. Almost three years since the putsch, however, progress on pre-project work has been snail-paced, with little hard evidence to suggest that any CMEC projects are actually moving closer to the construction phase.
New AidData flagship report and dataset show China is refocusing time and money on troubled projects, distressed borrowers, and sources of public backlash in effort to de-risk its portfolio and out-maneuver G7 competitors.
Tracking China’s Control of Overseas Ports – Council on Foreign Relations
This interactive map tracks China’s growing maritime influence through investments in strategic overseas ports. Users can plot the location of each port and view satellite images alongside detailed information on the share of Chinese ownership, the total amount of Chinese investment, and the port’s suitability for use by the Chinese military.
Saudi Arabia will be counting on partnerships with Chinese companies to help the Gulf country build up a renewable energy industry of its own, according to an executive at its sovereign wealth fund.
“We have huge demands for renewables and it makes a lot of sense for us from an economic development perspective and from a security of supply perspective to localize these products in the KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia),” said Mohammed Albalaihed, head of energy and utilities at the Public Investment Fund (PIF), at an industry event.
While he said Cuba was “determined” in continuous development, Marrero asked for help, saying: “Every additional Chinese tourist to Cuba is an additional support to Cuba’s economic prosperity and improvement of livelihood.”
The tourism forum was held a day after he met Chinese President Xi Jinping, during which Marrero raised one of his government’s priorities – to resume flights between Havana and Chinese cities.
Marrero, a long-time tourism minister before he became prime minister, said he could not provide a concrete timeline but was optimistic about the result.
“I firmly believe that we could possibly resume flights between China and Cuba next year as the frequent economic and trade exchanges, as well as the huge business potential from both sides, have raised the demand,” he said.
Thailand's lauded tourist industry is missing its biggest customers: the Chinese.
When China finally lifted zero-Covid restrictions in January, allowing its citizens to travel overseas, Thailand had high hopes. It expected an upsurge in business that would help its tourist industry recover much of the ground it lost during the Covid pandemic.
The government predicted as many as five million Chinese tourist arrivals by the end of the year - still less than half the nearly 11 million who came in 2019. But a big improvement on last year, when there were only 270,000.
That rosy scenario has turned out to be far too optimistic. Fewer than 2.5 million came in the first nine months of 2023.
Japan and China eye thaw with summit plans next week – Nikkei Asia
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Chinese President Xi Jinping are to meet on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, which will start next Wednesday in San Francisco. This would mark their first one-on-one meeting since November 2022.
For the Japanese staff now working for Chinese backers, the benefits appear to be increased funding, creative freedom and, perhaps, the chance to move away from their homegrown industry’s working practices, which by many accounts combine punitively long hours with comparatively low pay. As Goichi Suda recently put it, “Thanks to the support and backup we now get from NetEase, not only do we have a bigger studio and more people, but the environment itself has become much easier to work in.” The Chinese investors provide a semblance of security, and their pitch, as evidenced by the huge Chinese and Chinese-owned presence in Tokyo this year (nearly 20% of the 406 exhibitors were Chinese) has proven compelling.
Tania Branigan’s Red Memory wins 2023 Cundill history prize – The Guardian
Judging chair and historian Philippa Levine said that Branigan’s “sensitive study of the impact of the Cultural Revolution on the lives and psyches of an entire generation in China affected every juror, as it will every reader”.
“All of us found ourselves unable to stop thinking about this extraordinary book,” she added. “All of us were deeply moved by the trauma she so vividly describes and by the skills on which she drew in doing so. This is a must-read.”
Ep. 2: American Correspondents in China – China Books Review
[…] I think that the ‘80s and ‘90s and early 2000s, the period when we were both there, with the benefit of hindsight, is almost a kind of golden period, in terms of covering China. Because for all the aggravations, for all the roadblocks, for all the frustrations, there were ways to get around it. You could do a head fake, and leave your minders sitting in the hotel, and run off and meet somebody. Or the guides would go home at five o’clock and you could meet people in the evening. On my trip to Tibet in 1988, we had very tight controls from eight in the morning till five. And then the guide went off, and my camera crew and I rented bicycles and went all over Lhasa and found dissidents and monks and so on.
That’s not really possible anymore, partly because of the use of intrusive, sophisticated surveillance technology. They can follow everywhere you go. They can listen to almost everything that you say. They can monitor almost everybody you interact with. And so, the techniques that were adopted, sometimes cloak-and-dagger sort of techniques to get the story and evade the monitoring and the surveillance, is much, much more difficult. And that makes one oddly sentimental for a period that one didn’t feel so sentimental about when you were going through it at the time.
Independent media outlet says it cannot attract funding after being accused of working for Chinese and US governments.
BUSINESS, ECONOMY & FINANCE
The International Monetary Fund on Tuesday upgraded its 2023 gross domestic product growth forecast for China to 5.4% from 5%, citing a "strong" post-COVID-19 recovery, but said the fund still expected the world's second-biggest economy to slow next year.
GDP growth could slow to 4.6% in 2024 because of continued weakness in China's property sector and subdued external demand, the IMF said in a press release, albeit better than its October expectation of 4.2% in the IMF's World Economic Outlook (WEO).
The upward revision followed a decision by China to approve a 1 trillion yuan ($137 billion) sovereign bond issue and allow local governments to frontload part of their 2024 bond quotas, in a move to support the economy.
A major Chinese import exhibition turned awkward this week, as fresh data underscored the country's hefty trade surplus, highlighting what critics say is an imbalance exacerbated by exporters' limited access to China.
The six-day China International Import Expo in Shanghai, which runs through Friday, is billed as a catalyst for foreign trade and investment, showcasing what its promoters lauded as an "opening up of market opportunities." But new data released Tuesday showed that China recorded a trade surplus of $684 billion in the first 10 months of 2023, more than double the $254 billion it logged during the same period of 2018, the year the expo was first held.
China reported a worse-than-expected drop in exports in October, while imports surprisingly rose for the month from a year ago.
China’s customs agency said exports in U.S. dollar terms fell by 6.4% in October from a year ago. That’s worse than the 3.3% drop predicted by a Reuters poll.
Imports rose by 3% in U.S. dollar terms in October from a year ago. That’s in contrast to the Reuters’ forecast for a 4.8% drop from a year ago.
However, China’s imports from the U.S. were down by 3.7% in October versus the year ago period, CNBC calculations of customs data showed.
China’s imports from the European Union rose by more than 5%, while those from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations grew by 10.2%, the analysis showed.
China’s deflation pressures worsened in October as consumer prices dipped back below zero and producer cost declines deepened, adding to expectations the economy needs more stimulus to shore up growth.
Consumer prices fell 0.2% last month after hovering near zero in the previous two months, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics Thursday, lower than the median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists. Producer prices fell for a 13th straight month, dropping 2.6%.
China Vanke’s […] majority shareholder has expressed its support of the property developer, including making a commitment to spend more than $1.0 billion on its projects.
State-owned Shenzhen Metro Group said at a recent meeting with financial institutions that it is optimistic about Vanke’s prospects and has never planned or expressed intentions to reduce its stake, Vanke said late Monday.
Ping An Insurance (Group) Co. said it doesn’t hold any shares in Country Garden Holdings Co. and has no plans to acquire the distressed Chinese developer, refuting a report that sent the insurance giant’s stock tumbling on Wednesday.
The insurer said in a Shanghai Stock Exchange filing that it hasn’t received any suggestions or requests from any government agency to take over Country Garden, responding to a Reuters report that China’s State Council instructed the government of Guangdong province to ask Ping An to take a controlling stake in the developer.
State media has revealed that Vice Premier He Lifeng is assuming key roles in the Communist Party’s two new financial commissions.
The CFC is responsible for top-level design, coordination and supervision of the financial sector, as well as the research and review of major policies and issues. The CFWC works to keep the financial system aligned with the party’s political goals, theories, morals and discipline.
Strengthening the party’s Central Committee’s “centralized and unified” leadership over the financial sector is the “fundamental guarantee” of financial work, according to a readout of the Central Financial Work Conference.
China has asked exporters to report transactions of strategically important rare earth metals and oxide products, as economic security remains high on the agenda for policymakers.
Importers of crude oil, iron ore, copper ore concentrates and potash fertiliser have also been asked to report orders and shipments, the Ministry of Commerce said on Tuesday.
The new requirements, an update on the commodity reporting regulations released by the National Bureau of Statistics in 2022, will last for two years starting from October 31.
Previously, 14 imported items fell under the reporting mechanism, including soybeans, rapeseed oil, formula milk powder, pork, beef and sugar.
The pressure is on as China is prioritising the long-term financial health of its rapidly ageing population in a time of unprecedented demographic challenges.
But one year into the roll-out of a private pension fund that is being piloted in 36 cities before a national launch, the scheme is falling short of expectations due to low participation among the working-class public and poorly performing financial markets.
And the vast majority of participants have been reluctant or unable to contribute the maximum amount allowed, suggesting that those who are convinced to sign up are doing so with caution.
How China came to lead solar, battery and EV manufacturing – China Dialogue
The “new three” has been a buzzword among Chinese officials and state media recently, as they highlight the strong performance of solar cells, lithium-ion batteries and electric vehicles (EVs) in driving China’s exports this year.
China accounts for more than 80% of the global solar cell exports, more than 50% of lithium-ion batteries and more than 20% of electric vehicles.
The main propellers behind the surging trio are consistent government support, an early start, strong and low-cost domestic supply chains, and a massive home market driving economies of scale, experts have told China Dialogue.
They also pointed to Chinese companies’ ability to continuously innovate.
China’s recent strategies inhibit business investment and productivity advances and are already slowing economic growth. Forecasts that expect these policies to continue indefinitely predict growth at the low end of the Lowy range.
But China could grow faster. Three decades is a long time, and Chinese pragmatism could return — underperformance might even make this likely. Forecasts that leave room for a rebound in private initiatives and investments would raise China’s growth outlook at least into the middle part of the Lowy range. True, massive policy reversals are rare in China, but they have happened, even during Xi’s tenure (i.e., “zero-COVID”).
In the end, no matter how the WPP incident develops, I wish the CCP would proactively engage in open communication with the international community on such sensitive matters, rather than reacting only when misunderstandings become consensus. This would reduce speculation and facilitate the building of trust and understanding with people and businesses throughout the world.
As the snack food market expands rapidly in China, franchise store owners in towns and small cities might be biting off more than they can chew.
Amid China’s biggest shopping festival, data shows a surge in senior consumption across online platforms, particularly of products like electric wheelchairs and hearing aids.
TECH & MEDIA
A government-backed computer lab has announced that it will use a new version of Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.’s Ascend artificial intelligence (AI) chip to build what “will probably be the world’s largest” AI computing platform.
Cloud Brain III will use the new Ascend 910C processor and have up to 16,000 petaflops, or quadrillions of floating-point operations per second, of computing power, said Gao Wen, director of the Peng Cheng Laboratory, at an AI forum held at Peking University in Beijing Friday.
Peng Cheng expects to debut the platform around late 2024 to early 2025, Caixin has learned.
Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. on Thursday began taking preorders for the first electric vehicle (EV) it co-developed with auto partner Chery Automobile Co. Ltd., upping the ante in its push into China’s highly competitive EV market.
Equipped with a digital cockpit powered by Huawei’s HarmonyOS 4.0 and an advanced assisted driving system, the Luxeed S7 is the first electric sedan marketed under Huawei’s Smart Selection business model. The previous releases with other auto partners were SUVs.
ByteDance's virtual reality (VR) arm Pico will cut jobs and undertake its biggest overhaul since it was acquired by the TikTok maker two years ago as global demand for VR headsets weakens, three people with direct knowledge of the matter said.
China-based Pico held an internal meeting on Tuesday announcing the unit would keep its hardware team, but much of its software team would be folded back into ByteDance's own product development team, the people told Reuters on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak publicly.
At the meeting, Pico's CEO Zhou Hongwei said "the VR industry remains in a very early stage" and the company's "estimation for the industry and market growth was too optimistic as (real growth) did not go as fast as expected," acording to a transcript of his speech verified by two of the sources.
Zhou also said that the company would lay off staff from its sales, videos and platform operation teams.
The meeting did not specify how many jobs would be cut, but the three people said "hundreds" of staff were expected to be affected globally.
Inside China's Tech Boom – PBS
In the span of just a few decades, China has transformed into a science and technology superpower. But how did it get here and where is it headed? Take an insider’s tour of high-profile tech companies and labs that are driving China’s meteoric rise to the forefront of global innovation. How does China innovate? What drives its bid for technological supremacy? And what does its rise mean for the future of the global economy?
SCIENCE, HEALTH & ENVIRONMENT
China has published a long-awaited methane reduction plan, in a sign that the country is moving closer towards a new climate agreement with the US.
Beijing first committed to reducing its methane output at Cop26 in Glasgow in 2021, as part of a joint agreement with the US. But for two years the reduction plan failed to materialise. Its publication on Tuesday, as the US and Chinese climate envoys wrapped up four days of talks in Sunnylands, California, signalled that the two countries may soon break ground on a new climate agreement ahead of a presidential meeting next week and the UN’s climate conference, COP28, at the end of this month.
Each part of the country should prepare for its own combination of extreme weather risks this winter, the China Meteorological Administration said on Saturday, with the world on track to have its hottest year on record in 2023.
The administration warned that the El Nino weather system was expected to continue until spring, combining with the effects of global warming to raise the threat of natural disasters.
“Cold air will be active periodically, while the southern region will receive more rain. The risk of compound meteorological disasters will increase,” it said.
“Predictions show the temperature in most parts of the country from this winter to next spring will be close to or higher than the same period of past years.”
Heavy snowfalls forced the closure of schools and disrupted public transportation across the region. In Heilongjiang province’s capital Harbin, the city issued a red weather alert that resulted in the suspension of all primary and secondary school classes. In Liaoning province’s Shenyang, the city increased the frequency of subway trains in hope of encouraging drivers to stay off the icy roads
ARTS & CULTURE
Fifty years after the Philadelphia Orchestra’s history-making visit to China in 1973 that helped build then-fledgling U.S.-China ties, Davyd Booth hopes for a repeat performance.
The 73-year-old violinist returned to China this week with 13 fellow orchestra members to mark the 50th anniversary of the trip and carry on the ensemble’s decadeslong effort to bring the United States and China closer together despite current political disagreements.
“People all over the world are absolutely the same,” Booth said Thursday in Beijing, on the eve of their performance with the China National Symphony Orchestra at the National Centre for the Performing Arts.
In this issue: Internationally-celebrated Shanghai producer 33EMYBW releases a new album, there’s laidback grooves and psych-ish rock from Wuhan, a storming remix from Liars (Angus Andrew), Shanghai jazz, a wild rap record, and a new KTV classic to work into your karaoke repertoire.
an adventurous trip through the wilderness on R&B singer and producer Leo1Bee's debut album
‘Youth (Spring)’ Review: Garment Rending – The New York Times
Wang shot in Zhili from 2014 to 2019, and “Youth (Spring)” is said to be the first in a three-part series. Even for fans of Wang and mammoth docs, “Youth (Spring)” can be an arduous film to sit through. But while the running time may be indulgent, the experience of feeling trapped in this world is difficult to shake. Like Wang’s “’Til Madness Do Us Part,” set in a mental hospital, the movie is an exhortation not to forget the unseen.
British rock band Blur were not refused a visa to perform in Hong Kong and did not apply for one, a spokesperson for the band has told HKFP, after their bassist claimed that the band was “not allowed back” into the city.
The spokesperson added that Blur had received an invitation from a “branded event” in Hong Kong, but the conversation fell through in the early stages and there was no discussion of logistics. The spokesperson did not identify the brand.
Emerging from a three-year shadow cast by the pandemic and its stringent measures, Shanghai’s illustrious art scene has made a resounding comeback. The city is abuzz once more, celebrating the return of Shanghai Art Week, a decade-long tradition anchored by the homegrown ART021 Shanghai Contemporary Art Fair and West Bund Art & Design (both from November 9 to 12). Year by year, the local cultural tapestry has grown richer, with an ever-expanding array of museums and institutions enhancing the experience for art lovers.
Young Chinese women are increasingly seeking to break out of traditional gender norms. For many, that starts with building a muscular physique — and learning to kick some butt.
The result sees Wang Yidi become one of the only three players to lift a women's singles trophy on the WTT Champions stage, joining Wang Manyu and Sun Yingsha on an exclusive list.
The Chinese men's football team has unveiled a 24-player roster for the upcoming 2026 FIFA World Cup Asian qualifiers, with Zhang Yuning returning to the squad after a long term injury.
Chinese team head coach Aleksandar Jankovic has called up a full-strength team including Wu Lei, Wu Xi and Wei Shihao, but naturalized forward Ai Kesen was not listed.
China's Shandong Taishan defeated Incheon United of South Korea 3-1 at home in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League group stage on Tuesday, bolstering their hopes of reaching the Round of 16.
The Rise and Fall of the EAST – Asia Society
Mon 13 Nov 2023 - 6:30 - 8 p.m.
725 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10021
Join Yasheng Huang to discuss his new book The Rise and Fall of the EAST: How Exams, Autocracy, Stability, and Technology Brought China Success, and Why They Might Lead to Its Decline, a look at how China transitioned from dynamism to extreme stagnation after the Keju was instituted, as well as what lessons these historical trends hold for China's current trajectory. The discussion will be moderated by Orville Schell and will be followed by a book signing.
Paul Tsai China Center: Dan Wang: China's Technology Challenge – Yale Law School
Nov. 13, 2023 - 12:10PM - 1:00PM
SLB Room 129
Open to the Yale Community
Dan Wang, Visiting Scholar at the Paul Tsai China Center, has spent the past six years living in China to study the country's technology ambitions. This talk will focus on China's tech prospects given unprecedented US pressures. Dan writes an annual letter about China, and his essays have been published in the New York Times, Foreign Affairs, New York Magazine, and The Atlantic.
Taiwan Studies Workshop Panel Discussion: Elections in Taiwan 2024 – Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies
November 15 @ 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Presented via Zoom.
On January 13, 2024, elections will be held in Taiwan. Panelists will discuss the views of the major actors in the region regarding the possible impact of these elections on the political environment on the island and the security situation in the area.
Critical Issues Confronting China Series featuring Ya-Wen Lei - Techno-Capitalism: Social Challenges and Fissures in Today's China – Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies
November 15 @ 12:00 pm – 1:15 pm
CGIS South S020, Belfer Case Study Room
1730 Cambridge St.
Cambridge, MA 02138
Also via Zoom
Ya-Wen Lei is Professor in the Department of Sociology at Harvard University. She is also affiliated with the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies and the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard.
Yan Wenjie - Fake News as a Socio-political-psychological Phenomenon: Evidence from China – Harvard-Yenching Institute
November 16 @ 11:30 am – 1:00 pm
Common Room, 2 Divinity Ave.
2 Divinity Ave.
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138
With hundreds of millions of users, Chinese social media have been awash with unfiltered misinformation. How gullible are people to misinformation on social media? What are the factors that may contribute to their patterns of veracity judgment and behavioral tendencies? What are the preventative measures at our disposal we might possibly use as social interventions? This talk is to provide some initial answers to these questions by presenting results from a set of survey experiments on samples of Chinese Internet users.
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